Tag Archives: cargo

How global warming could impact air cargo flights

We’re all too aware of the many disastrous implications of global climate change – from the impact on coastal communities of rising sea levels through to the dangers of increasingly unpredictable seasons on agricultural cycles. But what about our own industry? A recent report in Climatic Change suggests that the implications could be serious for air transportation, and are well worth considering as the effects of climate change become more evident.


Serious impact

The report points to the way in which steadily rising temperatures will have an effect on the density of the air in the atmosphere. This has a direct impact on the amount of lift that our planes can generate – with serious consequences in terms of the amount of cargo that the aircraft would be able to carry. In extreme situations it could lead to aircraft being grounded during the hottest periods – with the experts suggesting that up to a third of flights might be prevented from taking off.  If true, the impact of increasing air temperatures would be particularly serious for air cargo operators – especially those who use larger aircraft such as the 777-300. The answer for the air cargo industry could lie in weight restrictions below their maximum take off weight – but the costs could be substantial.


A worrying pattern of evidence

“As air temperatures rise at constant pressure, air density declines, resulting in less lift generation by an aircraft wing at a given airspeed and potentially imposing a weight restriction on departing aircraft,” says the report by Coffel, Thompson and Horton. “Our results suggest that weight restriction may impose a non-trivial cost on airlines and impact aviation operations around the world.”


Ignazio Coraci comments: “This is troubling news for the industry, because it builds on previous research from 2015 – a compelling pattern is emerging that suggests that climate change could have very serious implications for our industry – not just in terms of cost but also in the quality of the service that we can offer our customers. As an industry we must do everything we can to make sure that the impact of climate change on our industry and the customers we serve is kept to a minimum.”

What the industry can learn from BRUcloud, the open community technology platform used at Brussels airport

Could a new app be a taste of the way our industry uses technology in the future?


Brussels airport has already had a great deal of success with its BRUcloud open community platform in recent years – and it seems that freight forwarders at the airport are now embracing the cutting edge data-sharing technology to develop new solutions to old problems.


Industry backing

The Customs Export Application was strongly supported by Air Cargo Belgium (ACB) – who represent the country’s air cargo community – and with the advantages it delivers it’s clear to see why the technology has been given the industry body’s backing. The app matches collected manifest data (both from the freight forwarders themselves and existing data that is available within the BRUcloud system) and then automatically reports complete and accurate information to customs. The new technology saves time on all sides – particularly in terms of the amount of time processing air waybills. Customs have also agreed to clear shipments handled via the app first, providing yet another opportunity to speed up processes for all stakeholders.


A shared approach

A real key to the success of the app has been the collaborative approach taken by all parties – both in terms of the development of the Customs Export Application and its subsequent roll out.


“This collaboratively created app results in a lower administrative burden for all the parties,” says Bart Vleugels, who is advisory general at the Federal Public Service of Finance, Customs and Excise Duties. “Digitization within BRUcargo will further lower the chances of errors and will help to drastically decrease lead times.”


Freight forwarders have certainly bought in to the new technology, with 90 per cent of the air freight passing through BRUcargo now using the app.


Industry best practice

Ignazio Coraci comments: “The industry can learn a huge amount from the great work done at BRUcargo, not just in terms of the technology itself and its application, but also in the collaborative approach taken to its development by everyone involved. This kind of open cooperation between stakeholders is a model for similar projects.”

What can the industry learn from KLM’s new air cargo e-commerce strategy?

The pace at which we all respond to the demands of our customers is critical – and recent investments made by some of the world’s leading air cargo operators suggest that the industry is finally getting the message about e-commerce.

Prime position

The sector is booming within the air cargo industry and KLM Cargo have now invested in a combination-carrier-operated sorting system at its Amsterdam Schiphol airport site that is able to handle package-level air freight. It’s been designed specifically to handle post, express and pharmaceutical cargo.

That means that KLM Cargo should now have the systems in place to fully take advantage of the growth in e-commerce traffic. Marcel de Nooijer, executive vice president of KLM Cargo explains: “E-commerce is a fast-growing branch in the cargo industry. This innovative system allows us to keep pace with the rapid increase in post and express consignments. The system is faster and smarter, allowing us to offer better service to our customers.”

Same-day revolution

KLM Cargo have described the new facility as a world first, and it’s clear that it should now allow the business to make more use of its air freight capacity. KLM Cargo have teamed up with Netherlands-based Parcel International to run 12Send, a new same-day delivery service for Europe. They’ve already piloted the service on routes between Amsterdam and Barcelona, and have held successful trials in London, Madrid and Stockholm.

A lesson for the sector

Ignazio Coraci comments: “This is a sign of things to come. No industry can afford to ignore their customers. The investment made at Amsterdam Schiphol is an indication that businesses are slowly beginning to listen to changing customer needs, and I feel that we are starting to move in the right direction. This kind of investment is essential if carriers want to survive as new markets develop.”

Business continuity

Cyber attacks by hackers are becoming a huge problem in our increasingly connected and technology-driven world.

A growing threat

Recent examples include the global ransomware attack back in May that disrupted many critical systems – not least in the UK’s National Health Service, which was badly affected for a number of weeks, severely impacting patient care. Closer to home in – terms of the air freight industry at least – was the attack on marine container shippers AP Moller Maersk, that saw a large number of their critical IT systems hit by the so-called ‘Petya’ operation.

One of the key phrases that is usually heard in the aftermath of such attacks is the need for a more robust procedure around ‘business continuity.’ But what does this really mean, and what steps has the industry already taken to lessen the impact of similar attacks – or even global IT system failures such as the one that recently hit British Airways – in the future?

Plan B

A new system that has been implemented in the UK might give some clues as to the future shape of our industry’s response to this issue. The ‘CCS-UK Fallback’ system is intended to allow the UK air cargo industry to continue running in the event of any prolonged problems with the HMRC’s vital CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) system. The new system means that traders will be able to continue processing Customs export declarations even with CHIEF down, and it has been designed to run for 30 days. The system’s development is a great example of collaboration between the private sector and government to safeguard an industry that’s worth billions.

“We have recently seen the horrendous impact of major IT system failures in aviation, and this cannot be allowed to happen to the UK air cargo industry which provides essential support to UK trade and industry, helps maintain our competitiveness on the world stage and supplies urgent commodities that are sometimes a matter of life and death,” says Steve Parker, DHL’s Head of Customs for Europe and Chairman of the CCS-UK User Group.

Safeguarding our customers

Ignazio Coraci comments: “The CCS-UK Fallback system is a real step forward, and I think it could be used as a model right across the sector. The service that we provide as an industry must have effective protection and we should all have business continuity plans in place – it’s the least we owe to the millions of customers who rely on us.”

Leading airfreight forwarders revealed

DHL Supply Chain and Global Forwarding were once again top of the pile in 2016 – even in the face of a down turn in air cargo traffic of 1.3% year on year. The confirmation of yet another great year for DHL came in figures released by consultant Armstrong & Associates, whose annual top 25 Global Freight Forwarders list is based on estimates by the firm’s analysts and reported figures – and represents a useful overview of the state of the industry for airfreight forwarders.

Maintaining their positions

So what does the list tell us about the current state of air freight? The top four air freight forwarders from the 2015 list all kept their positions, with DHL Global Forwarding, Kuehne+Nagel (K+N), DB Schenker and UPS topping the list. The picture in 2016 for DHL Global Forwarding was an interesting one, as the figures revealed that the company has maintained top spot despite experiencing contrasting trends within the market. The company were operating in an environment that saw airfreight volumes actually go down year on year in 2016 to 2m tonnes, but they also ultimately felt the benefit of a big surge in airfreight demand right across the industry in the fourth quarter of the year, with demand going up by 5.7% to 578,000 tonnes.

Demand is up

The figures from Armstrong & Associates also suggest that the top 25 airfreight forwarders might actually be pulling away from the rest of the pack. Overall demand for air freight in the industry went up by around 2% in 2016 – yet for the top 25, demand went up 5.6% year on year, hitting 14.5m metric tons.

While the picture in terms of demand is a bright one, the numbers around revenues are less encouraging. Air and ocean freight rate pressure, currency fluctuations and lower fuel surcharges all contributed to a drop in overall revenues of 8.8% to $172bn – compared to 2015 levels.

The pressure is on

Ignazio Coraci comments: “The increasing demand we’re seeing reported is encouraging, but the decrease in overall revenues for the leading freight forwarders last year is indicative of the pressures that the whole industry is feeling.”

Is digitisation an opportunity – or a threat?

The air cargo industry has unfinished business when it comes to digitisation and the modernisation of its processes. That at least was the message from the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac when he spoke at the IATA 73rd Annual General Meeting.

Time to move on

“Air cargo processes are stuck in another century. To ensure that air cargo is ready to benefit from the we need a major overhaul of industry processes,” he said. “The time is right for change. After several years of virtually no growth, air cargo demand is starting to pick up. We are also seeing new business opportunities with internet commerce and the global distribution of time and temperature sensitive cargo, especially pharmaceutical products.”

Customer first

The message then is clear – digitisation is essential in order to keep up with the rapidly transforming demands of customers, who expect a supply chain that is efficient, flexible and effective. A more customer-centric approach will see the development of an air cargo industry that will also be more responsive, with intelligent systems that are able to self-monitor, alert people in real time and respond to any changes in the delivery process.

The end for forwarders?

De Juniac’s vision is an exciting one then – and although it lays down a serious challenge to the industry to change, it seems to paint a picture of an air cargo industry that will thrive if it makes the investment in the necessary technology. But what are the implications of increased digitisation for freight forwarders? A recent article by McKinsey suggested that by 2025, 15 to 20% of air freight shipments will be booked directly by the shipper with the airline. Meanwhile one of those freight forwarders who may be looking at a potential drop off in work due to digitisation – Flexport – suggested in another article that “airlines are poised to bring freight consolidation in-house”. So does digitisation mean the end of the need for specialist freight forwarders?

An unlikely scenario

Not so fast, suggests Niall van de Wouw in the Loadstar. “Neither airlines nor shippers have the global capabilities to perform, for example, the customs activities that are required to move freight from one part of the globe to the next,” he says. “And I don’t see either building up these capabilities – and why would they? From the airlines’ perspective, it makes no sense to start competing with a client base that provides 80-85% of their revenue.”

Embrace technology

Ignazio Coraci comments: “The advantages of digitising and modernising our industry far outweigh any potential threats to individual operators within the industry. Any failure to move with the times – and to offer the kind of service customers now expect – is a far greater threat to everyone’s revenue streams than the latest technology.”

Investment in technology is key

It’s fair to say that the air cargo isn’t noted for it’s rapid adoption of technology to make systems and processes more efficient and less costly. And according to Dheeraj Kohli, vice president and global head of travel and transportation for Unisys Corporation, the industry may soon start to pay the price, if it doesn’t get up to speed rapidly. Speaking to Air Cargo News, Mr Kohli wrote about how inefficiencies are now starting to hurt the bottom line.

Growing concerns

“Respondents to a 2015 air cargo survey stated that process inefficiencies are leading to a widespread inability to optimise revenues,” says Mr Kohli. “Three out of four air cargo executives said that this has contributed to revenue leakage and over half surveyed believe it has led to problems with pricing integrity and consistency.

“In an increasingly complex economic landscape and highly competitive global marketplace, the airfreight industry must reassess how it can use technology to create more innovative and adaptive business models. Not only that, it must abandon a previously conservative approach to IT investment.”

Slow to catch on

To make matters worse, many of the solutions that could streamline the air freight industry are already available – the issue is that many companies have been slow to adopt them. The picture isn’t all bad however – Mr Kohli points to IATA’s hard work on promoting the “e-freight” campaign as a positive first step.

“While current e-Air Waybill (e-AWB) penetration is on track to hit the 2016 year-end target of 56% set by IATA, it is only the first step towards a more technologically-integrated future for air cargo,” he says. “There are a multitude of other technological innovations that the industry has so far only briefly flirted with.”

Investment needed

These include everything from an automated system that classifies cargo as soon as shipment data is available through to an integrated cargo pricing system, but the industry needs to invest and approach the technology with an open mind.

Ignazio Coraci comments: “Technology offers boundless opportunities for us to streamline our business – but the will to adopt and invest in these innovations has to be there. As an industry we all need to work more closely together to find ways of integrating new technologies into our systems and processes.”

Heathrow Sees Further Air Cargo Growth in March 2017

Fresh figures indicate that British-based air hubs are seeing their air freight rates climb right now, with Heathrow leading the charge. Ignazio Coraci comments on Heathrow’s continued growth.

Prosperous airport

Heathrow is the main gateway into the thriving London economy, and as this is one of the most prosperous cities on earth, it is a major hub for global air-cargo carriers. Companies such as ASC Cargo, which is based in Heathrow, transport goods all over the world, from the US to Hong Kong, from the hub and with e-commerce driving air cargo volumes, the airport is seeing strong freight growth.

The airport’s air freight volumes reached new heights in 2016, with its cargo shipments growing at a faster pace than its passenger expansion. This growth continued during the first few months of 2017, as figures indicate Heathrow’s air cargo volumes expanded by a further 4% during February this year, ensuring that the London-based airport got off to a “flying start” across the opening period of 2017.

Continued growth

ignazio coraci heathrowAccording to Air Cargo News, an industry portal, Heathrow registered more impressive growth in March 2017. The airport has released figures showing that it racked up its most impressive monthly expansion rate ever in March 2017, with its air cargo volume growing by 13%, to hit 148,000 tonnes. The main driver of this growth was long-haul markets such as Mexico (+28%) and Brazil (+13%).

Other key long-haul destinations for Heathrow in March included India (+9%) and China (+5%), while it also saw “impressive growth” for air cargo volumes in the Indonesian market. Expanding, a Heathrow spokesperson said that some lucrative new routes will be launched from the London-based airport this year, suggesting that Heathrow will see continued growth throughout the rest of 2017.

Prime air hub

In terms of total volumes, Heathrow is still the biggest air freight hub in the UK by a long way. However, Manchester airport saw a slightly larger rate of monthly growth in March, with its air cargo volumes expanding by 14.9% to reach just under 10,000 tonnes, due mainly to the hub’s increased long-haul capacity. No other British airport came close to recording this kind of growth in March 2017, however.

Statistics indicate that across March 2017, Heathrow’s rival Stanstead – another airport based in London, saw its air freight volumes climb by 10.2%, reaching 24,250 tonnes. Meanwhile the East Midlands airport’s air cargo volumes picked up by 5.5%, coming in at 30,300 tonnes shipped, in March 2017, proving that Heathrow is the most important air freight hub throughout the whole UK.

Expert commentary

Speaking out on this news, Ignazio Coraci noted: “It is clear that Heathrow is set to see a successful 2017, as it has posted impressive air cargo growth figures for the first three months of this year now. Cementing its status as the primary air freight hub in the UK, Heathrow should provide carriers with amazing new growth opportunities in 2017, strengthening the sector so it expands in future.”